The 2013/04/26 at 07:49
Marie Luginsland, en Allemagne
The timing could not have been worse. Commencing in 2007, based on 2010 figures and published at the start of April this year, this survey – the first of its type – emerges at the height of the crisis on tax havens and the salvaging of Cyprus. The first results are shattering for the countries that feel obliged to reach into their pockets: their households own fewer assets than those in countries impacted by the crisis. The assets of households in Finland (161,500 euros), the Netherlands (170,2000 euros) or even Germany (195,200 euros) are not even one-third of those of the average Cypriot household (670,900 euros) and remain far below those in a Spanish (291,400 euros) or Italian (275,200 euros) one.
The two latter also beat the value of assets in an average French household: 233,400 euros. These are results that will potentially cause resentment in the Eurozone. But also reassure Nicosia. Cypriot household assets come in second in value, just after Luxembourg.
Homeowners by nature
Nevertheless, the European Central Bank’s survey, filled out by statistical data from fifteen countries and banks from each of the Eurozone countries and based on 62,000 households, does not translate reality in all its details. Assets calculated on the basis of real estate, savings and vehicles are attributed to households, without any account being taken of the number of persons in question. There may therefore be significant disparities depending on the family models specific to each country, with the number of persons making up a household diverging between the North and South of Europe.
Another sociological element to bear in mind is that Southern European countries place an importance on real-estate ownership, while countries in the North have burgeoning rental markets. In this way, 77 % of Cypriots and 83 % of Spanish own their homes, as opposed to 48 % of Austrians and even 44 % of Germans, the weakest rate in Europe. According to the survey, 55 % of French people are homeowners.
In these conditions, should assets be taken as the criterion for wealth, ask various European commentators? All the more given that, as the German economic institute, the Institut des deutschen Wirtschaft (IW) in Cologne, notes: “2010 was a year for Southern European countries, the year of the real-estate boom.”
Outside the envy roused by the Southern Europeans, the survey has awakened the consciousness of Germans. In no other European country is the gap between the rich and poor as wide as in Germany. Indeed, apart from averages, the ECB also publishes median household assets, that is the level situated halfway between the lowest and the highest assets. Germany and Austria come out with median assets of 51,400 euros and 76,400 euros, typifying the countries where the gaps are the widest. Nations where there are the fewest inequalities are Greece and France, where median assets come in at 115,800 euros. However, assets alone cannot be an indicator of wealth, seeing that Northern households prefer allocating their budgets to non real-estate elements.
Other people’s money
As far as income goes, the ECB results also offer somewhat dampening news for the countries paying for the Cypriot crisis. With the average household income at 43,300 euros per year, Cyprus is in Europe’s top bracket, on a par with Austrians and Germans, not far off from the Dutch and the Finnish (45,800 and 45,100 euros) and far ahead of French households disposing of an average of 36,900 euros.
Looking at median values, yearly income once again shows strong disparities on national levels, in Cyprus as well as Austria, Finland or Belgium, where there median income, at 33,700 euros, is 15,800 euros lower than the average income. But carrying off the title for the greatest inequalities is Germany, Europe’s poor pupil with median income at 32,500 euros. On the other hand, Southern European countries, the Netherlands and France, are the countries that best manage to keep down inequalities.
Another positive note of the ECB survey, pending the next results in three years’ time, is that despite regional disparities, Eurozone households enjoy a certain standing. 60 % of them own their own homes, valued at an average of 180,000 euros, and almost one-quarter of them have a second home worth at least 100,000 euros. 75.7 % have a vehicle.